Why your iron is low and what to do about it
It’s common for people, especially menstruating women as well as vegetarians and vegans, to lack adequate iron.
Iron is a mineral that supports the transportation of oxygen in the blood. It’s essential for the development and functioning of cells, the production of hormones and tissues, and the production of hemoglobin, a protein found in red blood cells.
While some people have no symptoms of iron deficiency, some common signs of low iron include extreme fatigue, lightheadedness, dizziness, weakness, shortness of breath, brittle nails, damaged hair or hair loss, and cold hands and feet.
Common causes of iron deficiency:
When life gets busy, our well-balanced meals can be the first thing to go. Plus, if you aren’t aware that you have low iron levels, you won’t know which foods to stock up on at the grocery store. Luckily, our diet can provide a great source of iron.
Focus on foods such as dark leafy greens, lean grass fed red meat, lentils, sardines and spirulina that all contain good levels of iron.
Even if your diet is full of iron-rich foods, certain health conditions can hinder the body’s ability to absorb the mineral. Intestinal conditions (celiac disease, food intolerances, Crohn's/Ulcerative colitis, leaky gut), bowel issues such as chronic diarrhea, and gastrointestinal surgeries can affect iron malabsorption.
To increase iron absorption, I recommend either taking a vitamin c supplement or eating foods rich in vitamin c, such as citrus fruits or leafy greens. Avoid caffeine near meals as it can hinder iron absorption, and opt to drink your tea or coffee between meals instead.
Since Hemoglobin contains most of the body's iron, blood loss can result in iron deficiencies. Blood loss can occur post-injury as well as due to certain medications and conditions. Regular use of aspirin or anti-inflammatory drugs, heavy menstrual periods, urinary tract bleeding, surgery or internal bleeding caused by ulcers or colon cancer can lower iron levels.
I recommend using natural anti-inflammatory supplements when you can versus automatically reaching for Tylenol, and learning how to balance your hormones naturally in order to lessen your heavy menstruation.